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York celebrates feminist cultural activism

Posted on 10 February 2011

Organisers of a York carnival are encouraging women from around the world to send them their knickers to help create a unique piece of feminist social artwork.

The underwear will be strung together to create carnival bunting, celebrating the diversity of women’s shapes and sizes, and providing a permanent record of the University of York’s Carnival of Feminist Cultural Activism.  

The aim of the carnival bunting is to show that our underwear can tell a story of its own, whoever we are and whatever we portray externally

Julia Triston

Organised by the Centre for Women’s Studies, the three-day festival and conference from March 3 to 5 is celebrating 100 years of International Women’s Day. The event is designed to be both local and global, with York people joining delegates from many nations to celebrate activist creativity and advance feminist work.

Craft workshops on film making, fun art and quilting for Amnesty International, will be held alongside a huge variety of talks, exhibitions and performances exploring feminist art and political actions. Many events are free or very reasonably priced.  

In advance of the carnival, Durham-based textile artist and designer Julia Triston has issued the challenge “Show us your knickers”. Julia will run a practical textile workshop on March 3 and is asking all women – whether they are participating in the carnival or not – to send her their underwear before the carnival so they can be strung together into bunting.

Julia Triston said: “The aim of the carnival bunting is to show that our underwear can tell a story of its own, whoever we are and whatever we portray externally. In this piece of artwork we will be putting on show, proudly and honestly, what is usually unseen and taboo.”

The artist is also asking women if they have a tale to tell about the knickers they donate – were they worn for a special occasion, given as a present, hardly ever worn as too tight, falling apart but still comfortable?

Dr Ann Kaloski Naylor, Lecturer at the University’s Centre for Women’s Studies and organiser of the Carnival, said: “Art and performance have always been integral to feminist activism and the interdisciplinary work of the Centre acknowledges its significant role in work for gendered change. From grassroots projects which enable women to express desires for a better life, to street theatre which educates, and from feminist art which challenges mainstream ideas of aesthetics, to the role of craftivism in protest, feminist cultural activism changes the way we think and live.

“For the Carnival we bring together artists, academics, community workers and activists for discussion and debate, and to generate networks and projects that will continue to make a contribution to making the world a better place.”

The Carnival, which is co-sponsored by the University’s Centre for Modern Studies, will also feature presentations by Charlotte Cooper, author of Fat and Proud: The Politics of Size, Catherine Redfern and Kristine Aune, recently named by the Guardian as two of “the next famous five feminists” and Susie Vickery, winner of the Christine Risley Award from Goldsmiths University.

Other highlights include Albina Magerl performing Force to be Reckoned With about Bosnian gendered war violence and Liz Ely’s stand-up comedy as part of the Friday party night. A Feminist Film Night at York’s City Screen Cinema will include Invisible, The Bold and the Beautiful and Sex on Wheels

For more information or to register for events visit, email or phone 01904 433671.  

Notes to editors:

  • For further information on A Carnival of Feminist Cultural Activism visit
  • The Carnival Knicker Bunting workshop will be held on Thursday, March 3 from 1 to 3pm. Please contact the University of York Press Office on 01904 322029 to arrange interviews/photos/filming of the workshop.
  • For further information on the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York, visit
  • For further information on the Centre for Modern Studies, University of York, visit

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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